glossary

You can browse our topics using the letters below, or search for a term.

Letter N:

Nasal Fatigue: Diminished sensory perception; not uncommon after sniffing the same scent a number of times.

Natural Yeasts: These are yeasts that occur naturally on the grapes, rather than commercially cultured yeasts; both are used for fermentation. Many feel that the natural yeasts add more complexity to the wine. Large-scale producers shy away from natural yeasts, which can be unreliable since they are less controlled than cultured varieties.

Nebuchadnezzar: A giant wine bottle holding 15 liters; the equivalent of 20 standard bottles.

Négociant (négociant-éléveur): A French wine merchant who buys grapes and vinifies them, or buys wines and blends them, bottles the result under his own label and ships them. Particularly found in Burgundy. Two well-known examples are Joseph Drouhin and Louis Jadot.

Nevers: A forest in France that produces hard, medium-grained oak for barrels.

New Oak: Refers to the first time a barrel is used, when it has the greatest impact on wine. With successive uses, the wood imparts fewer flavors and tannins. Flavors associated with new oak include vanilla, cedar, toast and smoke. The wood tannins in newer barrels add firmness to the wine's structure. As with most components in wine, moderation and balance are key; new oak can be a positive or a negative influence, depending on whether it subtly enhances the wine or overpowers the fruit flavors.

New World: The New World is comprised of countries that have started producing wine more recently than the countries of Europe, including the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina and South Africa.

Noble Rot: Also known by its scientific name, Botrytis cinerea, noble rot is a beneficial mold that grows on ripe wine grapes in the vineyard under specific climatic conditions. The mold dehydrates the grapes, leaving them shriveled and raisinlike and concentrates the sugars and flavors. Wines made from these berries have a rich, complex, honeyed character and are often high in residual sugar. Noble rot contributes the unique, concentrated flavors in such wines as BA and TBA Riesling from Germany, Sauternes from Bordeaux, Aszu from Hungary’s Tokay district and an assortment of late-harvest wines from other regions.

Noble Varieties: Considered the classic grape varieties, originating in the Old World, which have the ability to make outstanding wines. Reds include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese and Syrah (Shiraz in the Southern Hemisphere). Whites include Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gerwürztraminer, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillion.

Non-Vintage: A wine blended with grapes grown in more than one vintage. This allows the vintner to keep a house style from year to year. Many Champagnes and sparkling wines are non-vintage. Also, Sherry and the non-vintage Ports, the tawnies and the rubies.

Nose: The character of a wine as determined by the olfactory sense. Also called aroma; includes bouquet.

Nouveau: A style of light, fruity, youthful red wine bottled and sold as soon as possible. Applies mostly to Beaujolais.

Nutty: Used to describe oxidized wines. Often a flaw, but when it's close to an oaky flavor it can be a plus.

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